This year marks the 50-year anniversary of Murray State’s baccalaureate in nursing education.
The University set itself apart when its nursing school chose to forego an associate degree track in favor of the more intensive baccalaureate program, making it the only four-year university to do so in the region.
Ruth E. Cole, founder of the program, went door to door speaking with families in the past, advocating the up-and-coming Murray State nursing program.
“Dr. Cole is still able to reminisce about the beginnings of the program and how she literally visited homes in the region encouraging families to send their children to a four-year nursing program,” said Marcia Hobbs, dean of the School of Nursing.
The first baccalaureate class began in the fall of 1964. Prior to the program, nursing students only studied for a year at Murray State before studying at Jennie Stuart Hospital in Hopkinsville, Ky. or Owensboro, Ky.
Today, the nursing program continues to grow.
It will soon be the first program at Murray State to have a doctoral degree – a doctorate of nursing practice.
Barbara Kearney, associate professor in the School of Nursing, said the doctorate has been the nursing program’s focus for the time being.
“We just started the doctorate of nursing practice program, so I’m not sure where we will be headed after that,” Kearney said. “We’re confined to that for the moment—it’s a needs assessment issue.”
Shelby Hall, senior nursing student from Louisville, Ky., said she likes the direction the nursing program is headed and the attention the professors pay to keeping learning up-to-date within the tight-knit program.
“Our class sizes are very small, so we get one-on-one attention that way,” Hall said. “It’s also nice that you stay with your classmates for most of your classes, and it makes the program feel like one big nursing family.”
Hall said nursing professors keep the program fresh by bringing in techniques from other universities to improve teaching strategies.
“I like that the teachers keep learning a lot,” Hall said. “I have a teacher who is taking doctoral classes now, and she told us she’s going to use things she’s learned from those classes to flip ours and teach us in a new way.”
The program may not have any other new degrees in the near future, but Hobbs has high hopes for the infrastructure of the program itself, and a move toward more research.
“I see the School of Nursing evolving into a unit that will always value the foundation of the school,” Hobbs said. “With the advent of the doctorate, the school will increase its visibility with research, results of practice-oriented capstone projects and faculty involvement at the national and international level.”
Despite its growth and change, the focus of the nursing program remains the same: improving medical support.
“The influence of improving the health in the region through the educating of baccalaureate nurses and graduate-prepared nurses will always be the priority of the School of Nursing,” Hobbs said.
A Showcase of Decades, the anniversary celebration, will be held Oct. 10 and is open to all nursing graduates and their families. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register on the Murray State Alumni website.
Story by Amanda Grau, Staff writer